If we can’t appeal to Labor’s principles, maybe John Roskam can appeal to Labor’s self interest:
Right now, every federal Labor MP should ask themselves a question…: “How would I feel if a conservative government did some of the things the Gillard government now wants to do?”
Labor MPs should ponder what their reaction would be if the Labor government established a news media council with the legal authority to enforce “fairness”, and a future Abbott government appointed a chairman of the council who issued a decree ordering the media to give as much prominence to climate-change sceptics as to those who believe humans are causing potentially catastrophic global warming.
Labor MPs, particularly those who regard themselves as being on “the Left”, should consider what their response would be had John Howard floated a proposal to have the government force internet service providers to keep for two years a record of all the websites visited by internet users. There would have been outrage. As there should be. Yet such a policy is exactly what’s being considered by the Attorney-General’s Department.
Amid the desperate desire of some in the Labor caucus to launch revenge attacks against the media generally, and Rupert Murdoch specifically, it’s been forgotten that the weapons with which the caucus arms itself will also one day be available to its opponents…
Even if Labor MPs aren’t greatly worried by the principle of freedom of the press, for example, they should at least be aware of the political consequences of?what they’re doing.
Labor one day will look back with shame at its attacks on free speech. I hope it won’t have to look back with fear.
(There will be co comments for this Post, because free speech is now dangerous – and costs. John will be a panellist on The Bolt Report on Sunday, Channel 10 at 10am and 4.30pm.)
For the first time in many years, I feel a flicker of hope that the Human Rights Commission may indeed defend the most important right of all – the one without which we are unable to defend the rest:
THE incoming president of the Australian Human Rights Commission says the right to free speech in Australia is “very, very fragile”, and can be restricted in ways that would never be permitted in comparable countries.
Professor Gillian Triggs said …one of the options open to those seeking to protect freedom of speech was to use the courts to “push back” against legal restrictions on the press…
In the absence of a charter of rights, Professor Triggs said, legislation was by far the most effective way of addressing incursions on human rights, including freedom of speech…
Professor Triggs, who once worked as a researcher for former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans, said legal restrictions meant journalists in Australia were already “working in a very constrained space”.
“We have got very, very strong privacy and defamation rules restricting the right of journalists to say things. It has been hemmed in and hemmed in.”
But there are two problems with Triggs’ recommendation that we use the courts to defend our right to free speech.
The first is that this relies on people having the huge money to risk on defending what is theirs by right. The cost of defending your right to speak is now, as I well know, so horrendous that it is cheaper and safer to be silent.
The second, in many ways related to the first, is what Triggs herself concedes:
But, she warned, court action would be managed by judges “depending on where they come from on this”.
Labor has successfully appointed many judges to the courts who come from the authoritarian New Left, and are only too ready to use laws to manage debates, suppressing those opinions they feel to be uncouth or unhelpful.
I’m glad to see this recognition of the fact that the bias of judges can be decisive, but it is a further reminder that the safest protection of free speech lies in changing the laws.
Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and hosts Channel 10’s The Bolt Report each Sunday at 10am, and his book Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.